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Low intensity and frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields selectively impair breast cancer cell viability.

Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields Selectively Impair Cancer Cell Function

Study Overview:

This study was conducted in Italy and Switzerland to see if PEMF could kill breast cancer cells without damaging the surrounding healthy cells. They found that the damage done to cancer cells significantly accumulated over just three days of consecutive treatment. And, the most damaging pulsed electromagnetic fields to cancer cells did no damage to the surrounding normal cells that were also exposed. Based on the data, the researchers suggest treatment strategies based on PEMF as a new approach in combination with other supportive therapies.


Authors:Crocetti S, Beyer C, Schade G, Egli M, Fröhlich J, Franco-Obregón A.
Location:Department of Environmental Science, University of Siena, Siena, Italy ; Institute of Biomechanics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland.


A common drawback of many anticancer therapies is non-specificity in action of killing. We investigated the potential of ultra-low intensity and frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) to kill breast cancer cells. Our criteria to accept this technology as a potentially valid therapeutic approach were:

  • 1) Cytotoxicity to breast cancer cells and;
  • 2) That the designed fields proved innocuous to healthy cell classes that would be exposed to the PEMFs during clinical treatment.


MCF7 breast cancer cells and their normal counterparts, MCF10 cells, were exposed to PEMFs and cytotoxic indices measured in order to design PEMF paradigms that best kill breast cancer cells. The PEMF parameters tested were:

  • 1) Frequencies ranging from 20 to 50 Hz;
  • 2) Intensities ranging from 2 mT to 5 mT and;
  • 3) Exposure durations ranging from 30 to 90 minutes per day for up to three days to determine the optimum parameters for selective cancer cell killing.

Results of PEMF on Cancer Cells:

We observed a discrete window of vulnerability of MCF7 cells to PEMFs of 20 Hz frequency, 3 mT magnitude and exposure duration of 60 minutes per day. The cell damage accrued in response to PEMFs increased with time and gained significance after three days of consecutive daily exposure. By contrast, the PEMFs parameters determined to be most cytotoxic to breast cancer MCF-7 cells were not damaging to normal MCF-10 cells.


Based on our data it appears that PEMF-based anticancer strategies may represent a new therapeutic approach to treat breast cancer without affecting normal tissues in a manner that is non-invasive and can be potentially combined with existing anti-cancer treatments.


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